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Professional tennis tournaments coming to Newport Beach

Professional tennis tournaments coming to Newport Beach
Nicole Gibbs of the Orange County Breakers, shown in action on Aug. 5, 2016, is entered into the Oracle Challenger Series tournament that begins Jan. 20 at the Newport Beach Tennis Club. (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Newport Beach Tennis Club will be home to the inaugural event of the Oracle Challenger Series, a men's and women's professional tennis tournament that begins Jan. 20.

Admission is free for spectators of the event, which is headlined in the men's field by Frances Tiafoe of Orlando, Fla., ranked No. 79 in the world, as well as No. 104-ranked Taylor Fritz of Palos Verdes. Kei Nishikori of Japan, who has been ranked as high as No. 4 in the world but is returning from a right wrist injury, has accepted a wild card to play in the $150,000 ATP Challenger.

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Other American men on the entry list include Mackenzie McDonald of Los Angeles, who is a former NCAA singles and doubles champion at UCLA, as well as Ernesto Escobedo of West Covina.

Americans Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale, Jennifer Brady, Alison Riske, Madison Brengle and Taylor Townsend, who are all ranked in the top 100, are entered into the WTA 125K Series event. It also offers $150,000 in prize money.

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The women's event also includes former two-time NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs of Los Angeles, who is familiar with Newport Beach Tennis Club. Gibbs played World Team Tennis there in 2016 with the Orange County Breakers. Other women's entrants include former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone of Italy and Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, a former U.S. Open semifinalist.

"This tournament offers a lot of opportunities for players who don't advance to the second week [of the Australian Open]," said Fred Sidhu, who is doing public relations for the event. "This is a perfect West Coast tournament as they come back to the U.S."

The second event of the Oracle Challenger Series takes place Feb. 24 through March 4 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The top two male and female Americans with the highest accumulated points in the series will be awarded wild cards into the singles main draw at the 2018 BNP Paribas Open, held March 5-18 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The tournament runs through Jan. 28 at Newport Beach Tennis Club. For more information, visit oraclechallengerseries.com.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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